When I was a kid, I recall stopping at Pine Tree Dairy in Redwood Falls to get our milk. While just being there was cool – literally – for a little kid, my fondest memory of being there, for some weird reason, was the glass milk bottles we got.
I don’t recall how long that lasted, but I do recall carrying out the plastic milk crates filled with the clinking glass constantly worried that I would end up dropping the whole thing on the ground.
I also remember after each bottle of milk was finished my mom would rinse out the bottle and put it back in the crate. When the crate was full, she would take the bottles back and get more.
In my younger days I also remember going to people’s houses where they were drinking bottles of beer and then seeing them place rinsed out bottles back in this big cardboard box. Those bottles were also returned for re-use.
As of today, the recycling center on the edge of Redwood Falls is no longer accepting glass. When I initially heard the news that this was going to be happening I was skeptical. Why would a center dedicated to recycling material give up on one of the materials that has been recycled since the dawn of time?
Actually, while glass has been recycled for years, it was re-using glass materials that was en vogue first.
Why did we ever give up on that practice?
I would argue we got lazy, and it became more convenient to know we could just throw them away or put them in the recycling bin. After all, rinsing out those bottles is a lot of work.
It has been hard to accept the fact that I will no longer be putting glass into the recycling bin anymore, but in the end this is not the fault of those who are recycling the material.
The fault lies with all of us.
As a society, we have now gotten used to the idea of co-mingling our recycling, which is an idea I never embraced, and even to this day the Krause clan still separates those items. Granted, we have not been the best of recyclers, but we are making an effort to do the right thing.
Anyway, the glass being mingled in with other recyclable materials would not, at its core, be a problem, because the recycling center hires people to sort that material.
The problem is that there are many other materials which are coming in that can’t be recycled, and those materials are subsequently making the glass that could be recycled less desirable to the point where there is no one who will accept the glass coming form Redwood County anymore.
Even when it was being accepted the material is so intermixed with other materials that it costs the county more than it would to just throw it in the landfill.
I have talked with Brian Sams and Jon Mitchell at the Redwood-Renville Regional Solid Waste Authority, and they said the decision to end the recycling of glass was not an easy one, but they knew for the future of the program – at least at this moment – the best option is to stop recycling it. I have already thrown away some glass items, and I will tell you it was not easy.
During a recent tour of the recycling center with Brian Sams he reiterated the issue that has been a huge problem at the recycling center for years. People continually are throwing their garbage in with the recycling.
This garbage is not just unwanted paper. It is actually pretty gross what some people have put in their recycling.
Then again, it is also pretty frustrating for me when Brian points out some of the more obvious things, like tires, car parts, broken tools and other things that people should know do not belong in the recycling.
I am hoping one day that the recycling program will once again announce that it will be taking glass material, and I think one way that could be done is for the state to decide that crushed glass would make for a good replacement material in road base.
As the state considers the future of gravel, with some claiming the quality of that material being mined is getting lower all of the time, it makes sense to find an alternative. I think that solution is glass.
You may also have heard that the county has decided to stop recycling film plastic, which comes most often in the form of the plastic bags we get at stores.
Since I had my conversations with Jon and Brian, I have found myself thinking more intentionally about that decision and the option I have of telling the cashiers that I do not want to use plastic bags anymore.
Reusable bags can be a great alternative, and I know, at least for me, it is going to take some time before I remember to start bringing those bags in with me when I shop. The Krause clan actually likes those plastic bags, because we use them to line the smaller garbage cans in our house, and we often will hold recycling in them before it is transferred to the garage.
Yet, I know they are a problem and have become more of one now that they will be ending up in the landfill.
I have heard people say and have also read from people who are angry about this decision and have claimed they are going to put those materials in the recycling anyway.
That will only cost taxpayers more money, because all of that garbage still has to be taken to a landfill, only it will be the recycling program that is paying it with your tax dollars.
We all need to do better.
Recycling is not about making money. It is doing what is best for the environment.